List of Rosemarkie Caves
Listed here are the shore caves from Rosemarkie to Eathie (southwest to northeast) with Ordnance Survey grid references. Most of them have names given to them by the Rosemarkie Caves Project (RCP), but if local names are known, we would rather use them. Please use Feedback to give us the local names if you know them.
The use of hard hats is recommended when going inside the caves, which continue to have rockfalls on occasions. This especially applies to Ivy and Gooseberry Caves. The cliffs are composed of psammite, which is a sandstone altered by heat, it is easily fractured and is brittle. This section of coast has numerous scree slopes composed of this rock. There are 3 routes by which walker can reach the caves. The access routes are challenging and can be dangerous - to include dangers of high tides blocking access on the shore.
It should be pointed out this section of coast is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) ~ which means the shore and caves are protected by law under the control of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). This means that it is illegal to disturb animals using the caves or shore or to damage the walls or floor of the caves without the permission of SNH and the relevant landowner.
Cairds' Cave NH 745 595. (The Tinkers' Cave). Easily reached along the beach, or footpath, from Rosemarkie and access unaffected by tides. Excavated by Dr William MacLean 1907-12 and by the RCP in 2010. Stayed in by "Captain" William and Mrs Devine about years of WW1, for several summers. Samples of charcoal and animal bone found in the bottom layers of the floor were carbon-dated and showed that the cave had been in use in 300 BC (about the same date as Alexander the Great).
On Skart Craig, the headland between these two caves, there is at least one iron stanchion on the rock face used to hold a rope or chain to assist people round the headland in the past. Caves beyond this headland can only be reached from Rosemarkie at mid to low tide. (If you get cut off, the way out is the Hillockhead path, NH747597)
The Second Cave NH 746 596. Long, rather drippy cave with rocky entrance above beach. Just around the headland (Skart Craig) from Cairds' Cave. Lots of dripping water, not inviting for residents or archaeology, but otter prints have been recorded in entrance.
Through and Through Cave NH 7495 599, NH 7497 5994. Pleasant, dry cave with a walkable tunnel through the headland. Entrances somewhat hidden behind trees. Completely dark inside cave passage.
Crescent Cave NH 750 600. Difficult to find, well above the beach behind trees. Entrance nearly filled with talus (rocky rubble), leaving a crescent-shaped hole at the top. Wet and drippy inside, goes back 10 metres, but with a low ceiling, not for those with claustrophobia.
Ivy Cave NH 751 601. This cave has a sort of patio area outside. Floor of cave is uneven and deepest part sometimes has a small, muddy pool. Care should be taken near this cave, as there has recently been a large rockfall from the cliff top above Ivy Cave.
Gooseberry Cave NH 752 602. Rocky floor, drippy in places. May have been bigger in the past, large rockfall at entrance and surrounding rock cracked. RCP members consider this cave unsafe.
The next caves are about half a kilometre to the northeast, past the Hillockhead path (starts NH 745 603). They are in 3 groups of 3. This route is by far the best way to reach all the caves except Cairds', but it is quite exposed at the top ~ be very careful with dogs and children. The path is in fair condition, with strong, wooden steps.
Learnie 1A (Tuppence Ha'penny Cave) NH 756 608 Small adjunct to main cave, 1B. In excavations in 2018, 3 late Victorian coins were found, 2 pennies and one half penny (ha'penny).
Learnie 1B (Dead Horse Cave) NH 756 607 Biggest cave on this shoreline, big enough to hold a bus. Although close to the shore, cave entrance guarded by prickly blackthorn bushes. This cave is 18m deep and has an impressive ridge of pigeon droppings inside. Cave had been in use in early medieval, Pictish times ~ approx. 689-975 AD. In June 2018, excavation by the RCP found the partial skelleton of a small horse, hence the name.
Learnie 1C NH 7565.6077 A few metres to the right of the main cave.
Learnie 2A NH 7568 6075 Small crevice to next to 2B.
Learnie 2B, (Smelters' Cave) NH 7566 6075. Another big cave, exploratory archaeological excavation made by HAS/NOSAS group in 2006. Remains of stone wall at entrance. Evidence of use in early medieval times ~ approx. 640-764 AD and in more recent times, by travellers in 19th century, possibly shoemakers. In 2016, members of the Rosemarkie Cave Project found the remains of a man who died around 600 AD. He has been named Rosemarkie Man.
Learnie 2C NH 7569 6078. 10m long, dry cave next to 2B. Soot on ceiling, probably modern.
The last Learnie caves are 200m or so further on, past a sandy beach and 15m up behind hazel and willow trees.
Learnie 3A NH 7575 6089 .
Learnie 3B NH 7572 6090 The biggest of the 3, roughly T-shaped inside.
Learnie 3C NH 7575 6090 Small entrance, but much bigger inside. Mostly dry, has tight, connecting passage to 3B. The floor of this cave is of sandy silt, differing from the other caves which are rocky. Deep under this layer is an old rocky floor, which has dated back to 300 AD.
From Learnie to the last 4 caves is 10 minutes walk NE, further up the beach. Once a waterfall from the clifftop is seen, you are in the right area.
Sea Cave NH 7633 6137 Small cave too close to the sea to have been inhabited or used much, though there is a piece of angle iron that has been placed in the roof.
Broad Cave NH 7634 6138. A few metres further on from Sea Cave, the entrance is 8-10m above the shore. Dry inside, scatter of bones and shells.
The Rathole NH764615. Up a slope and facing seawards, this is a potential cave as there is a small gap under a short overhang, which may indicate a cave filled with tallus, or beach stones.
Three Peaks Cave NH 7650 6158. Behind elder tree, which is above a scree slope, ivy stack on beach nearby. Cave named after 3 small stalagmites on a ledge at the back of the cave. Exploratory excavation by RCP found charcoal dating to 300 AD. This is the from the Iron Age and is the second oldest date found in the 18 sea caves of interest to the Rosematkie Caves Project.
Cranesbill Cave NH 7633 6131. Earth floor, signs that it had been wet inside. Possibly too close to shore to have been used for dwelling, though would probably be ok in summer.